Make It Memorable: What Does That Mean?

One my favorite pasttimes these days is pondering the kind of writing advice that can actually hurt writers—usually by becoming a cliche, without offering a deep understanding of a complex issue.

Here’s an excellent cliche explained and presented by Lee Martin, in the most recent Glimmer Train bulletin:

“Make it memorable,” the editor of a respected literary journal told me when he came to visit Arkansas and to critique student manuscripts. That was the thing that made a story jump out of the slush pile and onto the pages of a lit journal. Something memorable that just wouldn’t get out of a reader’s head.

My problem was I thought the memorable was only located in the plot. I’d yet to learn to appreciate the more subtle shadings of characters as they created and then moved through the intricacies of their lives. I needed to be paying less attention to what happened and more attention to the characters involved.

Go read the entire piece, “Make It Memorable.”

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4 thoughts on “Make It Memorable: What Does That Mean?

  1. Laura Reese

    Love this article. I believe being memorable in one’s writing relates to vulnerability. The more you open up, take chances, write about what you LOVE and have passion for — instead of what’s popular — the better chance you have of striking gold somewhere along the way.

    Thanks Jane!

  2. Mary Tod

    What a timely piece as I am in the midst of creating manuscript number three. I have arrived at writing after a lengthy career in business so I feel the same pressure to write well and get published (self-imposed, of course) as Lee Martin expresses in his post. The good news is that I absolutely love writing although I would never have imagined such passion. After all, I was a mathematics and computer science grad with a career in technology and then in consulting!

    I’d like to connect Lee Martin’s thoughts with Mike Shatzin’s post about Ruth Cavin who died a few days ago at the age of 92. Apparently, Ms. Cavin began her very successful career as an editor when she was in her 60’s. So with Lee Martin’s thoughts about passion and Ruth Cavin as an example, perhaps there is still time for me to be a successful writer!

  3. Steven M Moore

    While I echo Colleen’s sentiment, I would bet that no reader picks up a book or peruses a short story just based on memorable characters. In my capacity as a reviewer, I’m certainly willing to forgive 2D characterization, lapses in POV, and so forth, as long as the story is memorable. Plot comes first for me–a good yarn trumps everything. I realize this is subjective. It also produces stress in writers. One can dominate the techniques and questions about them rarely produce writers’ block. Coming up with a good story can mentally block the best of us.